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Iraq vet prevails in state's largest poker tournament

Derek Buonano of Palm Beach Gardens took home the top prize in the first event of the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open -- which drew a state-record turnout.

 The field attracted 3,391 entrants and lasted five days. That smashes the previous record of 2,607 at the Palm Beach Kennel Club in 2012 for the first event of the World Series of Poker Circuit Series. (At least that's the largest one I have seen, although it seems like the Hard Rock had a 2,800-player event in the past 18 months?)

    Buonano, 31, served in Iraq as a member of the U.S. Air Force before he became a professional poker player, and emerged with the cash after a nine-way chop based on chip count. He played soccer while at Palm Beach Gardens High, according to our archives.

 When the nine players took their first final table break, they started discussing a deal to end the tournament right there, dividing up the $500,875 prizepool based on ICM, or Independent Chip Modeling, according to BJ Nemeth, who is covering the event for the Hard Rock.

Buonano negotiated an extra $8,300 because he had been holding a large chip lead for a while and was reluctant to stop playing.

 For Buonano, this ranks as the biggest score of his career, surpassing the two deep runs he made at the World Poker Tour and the World Series of Poker, where he earned a combined $72,065 for a pair of 12th-place finishes.

 "It's amazing," Buonano told Nemeth. "It's not every day you can get through thirty-four hundred players to actually be there, the one person at the end, which we all strive to be. To actually be that person feels amazing."

Live streaming with chat function, live updates and blog posts are available at the official SHRPO website Engagement on social media will be accessible through The Poker Room at Seminole Hard Rock’s Twitter feed at @SHRThePokerRoom and Facebook at  

 The official results from the final table of Event #1 ($350 No-Limit Hold'em w/ $500,000 Guarantee):


1st:  Derek Buonano  -  $90,000

2nd:  Steven McKoy  -  $64,001

3rd:  Jaime Campos  -  $58,418

4th:  Zack Goodman  -  $58,323

5th:  John Liu  -  $57,557

6th:  David Diaz  -  $50,047

7th:  Jeff Yeh  -  $42,742

8th:  Kevin Ho  -  $41,000

9th:  Daniel Navarrete  -  $38,787

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